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Soccer-Confusion over banned Anelka's West Brom future

Reuters

* French striker says he has quit club

* Albion deny player has left (Updates after West Brom reaction)

By Mike Collett

LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - Confusion surrounded Nicolas Anelka's future at West Bromwich Albion on Friday after the club said they had received no official notification of his intention to end his contract with the Premier League strugglers.

Earlier in the day the former France striker, given a five-match ban by the FA following his controversial 'quenelle' salute in December, said that he was quitting West Brom.

"Following my talks with the club I've been told I could be back in the squad under certain conditions that I can't agree," the player said on his Twitter account @anelkaofficiel.

"As I want to preserve my integrity I've decided to free myself and to put an end to my contract with WBA with immediate effect."

West Brom, who are fourth from bottom of the table, one place above the relegation zone on goal difference, and visit fellow strugglers Swansea City on Saturday, criticised Anelka for a lack of professionalism.

"The club notes Nicolas Anelka's comments on Twitter this evening," Albion said on their website (www.wba.co.uk). "However the club has received nothing formally regarding the termination of Nicolas Anelka's contract from either him or his advisers.

"The club regards the release of such a statement on social media as highly unprofessional and will make a further statement when appropriate.

"The club confirms it has been continuing discussions with Nicolas Anelka and his advisers as part of its own internal enquiry into the gesture he made after scoring against West Ham United on December 28," added West Brom.

"Following the conclusion of the FA's enquiry into the same incident the club had hoped to conclude its own investigations next week."

Anelka, who turned 35 on Friday, made the salute, widely regarded as anti-Semitic, when he scored the first of his two goals in a 3-3 draw in the league game at West Ham.

SIGN OF ALLEGIANCE

After receiving his five-match ban from the FA and an 80,000 pounds ($133,000) fine last week for the salute, the Frenchman said on Thursday he would not contest the suspension.

The FA, who wanted a longer ban, also said they would accept the sanction imposed by its independent regulatory commission.

Anelka said the salute, devised by his friend Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, was a sign of allegiance with the French comedian and that he was using it as an anti-establishment gesture.

The FA accepted that while the gesture is deemed to be anti-Semitic, Anelka was not an anti-Semite.

If Anelka does quit West Brom it could signal the end of a long career for the striker who played 69 times for France and featured for a host of Europe's top clubs.

After making an initial impact at Paris St Germain, he had spells at Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbahce, Juventus and Chelsea among others.

Anelka was part of Real's Champions League-winning team in 2000 and, in all, his aggregate transfers were worth close to 90 million pounds ($149.65 million).

He signed for West Brom as a free agent after leaving Juventus at the end of last season and played 12 times for the Midlands club, scoring twice.

($1 = 0.6014 British Pounds) (Additional reporting by Gregory Blachier and Tony Jimenez, editing by Stephen Wood and Ken Ferris)

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